A&E Analysis - February 2010

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FEBRUARY 2010 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE:

* Bold denotes programming change

SCHEDULING STRATEGIES:

The network's scheduling approach appears to break the week into two parts:  Monday-Thursday, and the weekend.  In both instances, it's all about stacking themes or singular series throughout the night.

Monday-Thursday is dominated by reality based series, mostly within the crime and justice category.  Signature series INTERVENTION, DOG THE BOUNTY HUNTER, and FIRST 48 anchor the evenings, more often than not, in the form of two hour blocks.  The 10pm timeslots feature a rotating mix of real life and reality series that include the human condition, crime, pop culture, celeb-reality, and paranormal.  Many of the series tend to be half hours scheduled back to back to fill the slot.

Friday and Saturday feature three hour stacks of CRIMINAL MINDS.  Sunday nights have been switching every few months between CSI: MIAMI/CRIMINALMINDS and reality series, with dramas the current mainstay.

FEBRUARY 2010 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

Live Primetime Ratings Comparison /February 2010 vs. February 2009 (% Change)

HH

A18-49

A25-54

Monday 8-11pm

4%

-8%

-4%

Tuesday 8-11pm

-15%

-22%

-14%

Wednesday 8-11pm

-7%

-11%

-5%

Thursday 8-11pm

-1%

0%

-4%

Friday 8-11pm

28%

29%

38%

Saturday 8-11pm

-8%

-3%

0%

Sunday 8-11pm

38%

26%

27%

MTWTFSS 8-11pm

5%

0%

2%

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

With competition coming out of Vancouver, A&E held it's own on the year to year comparisons.  Total audience was up 5% with target demos flat to slightly ahead of 2009.  Women were down, men were up, unusual given that the Olympics generally goes female.  Median age bumps up again as off net drama CRIMINAL MINDS ages things up.  Premieres were heavied up in the first couple weeks, disappearing entirely in the final week in deference to the Olympic competition.  Although a drop from January has been normal, the fall this time was larger that past years.  Still, the two year trends were basically flat.

HOARDERS was down from a massive January, but still ends up as the highest rated regularly scheduled series in the target demos.  Three weeks of premieres were as strong as ever.  Only a repeat at the end of the month slowed the momentum.

INTERVENTION was also down on Mondays, but still above average for the month.  Three weeks of premieres maintain the formidable one-two punch with HOARDERS, allowing Monday to retain the title of highest rated night of the week.

PARANORMAL STATE and PARANORMAL COPS wrapped up their runs early in the month with below average numbers.  Lots of imitators coming out in the cable landscape making the genre a little overexposed.

STEVEN SEAGAL finishes his freshman season in great shape.  A second season is already in the works.  We'd like to see the first season get a prime time encore before too long.

FIRST 48 had three weeks of premieres, raising the bar from year ago airings.  Pretty good for a series in its 10th season.  MANHUNTERS led out of FIRST 48 with three weeks of premieres as well.  The second season detective series drew slightly above average for the month, and about even from last year.  As we saw with the network overall, men were down, women were up.  In the case of MANHUNTERS, that's a good thing.  The male series' male skew makes it atypical on the schedule so shifting it female brings it back home.

Weekends were all about off net dramas, mostly CRIMINAL MINDS.  The property continues to drive the network numbers, mostly in the right direction.  Audiences are up, demos are holding, and weekends are way up over last year.  The older skew is having an influence on the total numbers, but so far that's not a major issue.

CABLEU NEED TO KNOW:

A&E made a lot of drastic program content changes in recent years, going more mainstream in reality and moving away from such staple doc series as BIOGRAPHY, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTS, and AMERICAN JUSTICE.   Properties like STEVEN SEAGAL: LAWMEN, THE FIRST 48 and MANHUNTERS still maintain the network's roots in crime/investigation, while reality shows like DOG THE BOUNTY HUNTER, INTERVENTION, HOARDERS, and GENE SIMMONS FAMILY JEWELS define the network today.  DOG THE BOUNTY HUNTER and GROWING UP GOTTI helped bring A&E into the world of general entertainment, by taking its tradition of crime into reality programming. After growing in popularity with younger demos, A&E was able to branch out even more with shows like INKED, KING OF CARS, and DRIVING FORCE.  All of these programs had compelling, quirky and/or unique characters, along with something edgy in their lifestyle.  The genre has grown to include the human condition and the paranormal. 

In early 2007, the network announced its first development slate of drama series in years.  The first project to come out of that slate, THE CLEANER starring Benjamin Bratt, premiered in July, 2008.  A second season soon followed.  THE BEAST, starring the late Patrick Swayze, solidified the network's foothold in the genre, building on their acquired dramas, particularly CRIMINAL MINDS, and the successful real life franchises.

A&E tries to be just edgy enough to fuel publicity and appeal to its new, younger audience. New program decisions are based on current successful blocks and formats; so whatever is working now, count on A&E wanting more of the same but new.

IMPORTANT: The network doesn't refer to itself as a "women's" channel, but the gender skew leans almost 60% female.  Something to keep in mind when developing a program pitch.

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